National Academies Press: OpenBook

New Strategies for New Challenges: Corporate Innovation in the United States and Japan (1999)

Chapter: Need for Additional Work on Models and Conceptual Frameworks for Innovation, and Research on Similarities and Differences

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Suggested Citation:"Need for Additional Work on Models and Conceptual Frameworks for Innovation, and Research on Similarities and Differences." National Research Council. 1999. New Strategies for New Challenges: Corporate Innovation in the United States and Japan. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5823.
Page 46

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CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 46 others that have been involved in improving the comparability of data and statistics of various nations. The U.S. and Japanese governments can make a major contribution by promoting and providing leadership in these efforts. Although developing a specific program along these lines is beyond the scope of the current study, the Joint Task Force has identified several areas where these efforts might be focused: Comparability of Data on R&D Spending For the time being, comparisons of U.S. and Japanese R&D statistics should include figures using both market exchange rates and purchasing power parities. In the future, the development of price deflators and purchasing power parities reflecting the mix of goods and services utilized in R&D and innovation should be explored. Wage statistics for R&D related work is one example of the data that might be needed. Data on the Changing Institutional Context for R&D, including Expanding International Links From anecdotal information, scholarly research and the testimony of committee members, it appears to the Joint Task Force that increased reliance on external sources of innovation is the most important trend in corporate innovation strategy in the United States and Japan. The committee is not aware of statistics collected by any country that allow for adequate measurement of this trend, including industry comparisons. Through periodic surveys or regular data collection, efforts should be made to track trends among Japan- and U.S.-based companies in areas such as (1) relationships between original equipment manufacturers and suppliers (number of suppliers, nature of linkage), (2) relationships between industry and universities, (3) reliance on international sources of innovation, both within and outside firms, including alliances between vertically integrated firms in the same or different industries, exclusive long-term vertical relationships with suppliers, and "diagonal" relationships with formerly exclusive suppliers emerging to serve broader markets. This work should be aimed at confirming the existence and extent of the trend toward increased reliance on external sources of innovation, and capturing the specific nature of these relationships. Need for Additional Work on Models and Conceptual Frameworks for Innovation, and Research on Similarities and Differences Between Countries In recent years, scholars in the United States, Japan and elsewhere have developed a number of models and analytical frameworks that have improved understanding of innovation processes and dynamics. Many of these concepts have been discussed in this report, such as demand articulation, core competence, national systems of innovation, communities of practice, innovation-mediated production, and the corporate technology stock model. Significant studies comparing the innovation approaches of companies based in Japan, the United States and other countries have also been completed. The Joint Task Force believes that these two streams of scholarly effort are both extremely important and complementary. International comparisons provide very useful context for the development of new models and conceptual frameworks, and the development of models and concepts advances understanding of national similarities and differences. Issues and questions related to convergence in approaches to innovation will continue to increase in importance in the future, and scholarly research can continue to contribute to related discussions.

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Innovation, "the process by which firms master and get into practice product designs and manufacturing processes that are new to them," is vital for companies wishing to remain competitive in today's rapidly changing high technology industries. American and Japanese firms are among the world's most technologically innovative and competitive. However, the changing dynamics of global competition are forcing them to rethink their technological innovation strategies. The choices they make will have great impact on their futures as companies as well as on the livelihoods of their employees and the communities in which they operate.

In order to understand the ways in which Japanese and American companies are changing their technological innovation strategies and practices, the Committee on Japan of the National Research Council and the Committee on Advanced Technology and the International Environment (Committee 149) of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) organized a bilateral task force composed of leading representatives from industry and academia to assess developments in corporate innovation strategies and report on their findings. Through a workshop discussion of the issues and subsequent interaction, the task force explored the institutional division of innovation in both countries: the structure and performance of technology-based industries, the role of the government in the support of science and technology, and the role of universities in the science and technology system. The task force was particularly interested in exploring the points on which the two systems are converging,-i.e., becoming more similar in strategy and practice-and where they continue to be distinct and different.

Although a comprehensive study of these trends in U.S. and Japanese innovation was not easily feasible, the task force was able to develop several conclusions based on its workshop discussion and follow-up interactions that were substantial in time and content. This report identifies a set of issues whose further elucidation should be helpful in guiding public policy in both nations. These issues include the role of external sourcing of innovation, transnational activity and globalization, the organization and performance of R&D, and the role of consortia, joint ventures and other joint activities. A call for greater international efforts to collect and analyze data on these important trends is the central recommendation of the task force.

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